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DROWNING DEATHS

Father Undergoing Psychological Evaluation

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By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 31, 2008

Prosecutors announced yesterday that they will seek, at a minimum, life without the possibility of parole for a Rockville man accused of drowning his three young children in a hotel room in Baltimore.

A spokesman for Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy said a decision on whether to seek the death penalty for defendant Mark Castillo will be made after court-administered psychological evaluations are reviewed. Speaking after a hearing in Baltimore Circuit Court, the spokesman said Jessamy would probably consult the children's mother, Amy Castillo, before deciding.

"I know our office has been in touch with the Castillo family," spokesman Joseph Sviatko said.

Mark Castillo, 41, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and other offenses. He has pleaded not guilty, invoking Maryland's version of the insanity defense, in the March deaths of the children, Anthony, 6, Austin, 4, and Athena, 2.

Appearing on "Larry King Live" this month, Amy Castillo said she was "not morally opposed to the death penalty" but thought life without parole was "probably more practical."

"In the state of Maryland, I mean, it just seems like they say it's very difficult on the family, the death penalty," she said. "It takes 20 years, and it's very difficult."

Amy Castillo, 43, did not answer several calls to her house yesterday.

Mark Castillo sobbed throughout the brief proceeding yesterday, his back shuddering as he hunched in his chair behind the defense table. Just before the hearing began, he said in a loud, clear voice, "Your Honor, I'd like permission to speak."

The outburst prompted defense attorney Natasha Dartigue Moody to turn to him and speak sternly, though inaudibly. After that, Castillo said nothing more.

Moody later declined to comment on what her client wanted to say.

If they decide to seek the death penalty, prosecutors must notify the defense of their intentions at least 30 days before the trial, scheduled to begin Aug. 22.

Castillo told investigators that he killed the children just before he was required to return them to his wife under a visitation agreement, authorities have said. According to charging documents, Mark Castillo said he swallowed 100 Motrin tablets and stabbed himself in the neck with a steak knife, then drifted into unconsciousness and woke up 19 hours later, realizing that his suicide attempt had failed.

Castillo has received diagnoses of depression and narcissistic personality disorder and has a history of suicidal behavior, according to court records and testimony. He is being evaluated by court medical professionals.

If doctors conclude that he was not criminally responsible for the killings, he would be committed to a psychiatric facility. If doctors conclude that he was, defense attorneys could produce experts to contradict that finding.

Staff writer Dan Morse and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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